April 6, 2007

Al-Qaeda in Iraq Committing Institutional Suicide

Hatched by Dafydd

Another day, another suicide bombing in Iraq... launched by al-Qaeda in Iraq against their own erstwhile supporters in Anbar province.

This is so self-destructive, driving even more Iraqi Sunnis into the Iraqi military and police, that the only logical conclusion is that AQI realizes that it gambled and lost. It will never regain the trust and support of the Iraqi Sunni tribes, and there is nothing left now but a desperate, eleventh-hour "Hail Mary" (if that's really the phrase I want): They hope to terrorize the Sunni tribal leaders to the sidelines, so at least they will not fight on the side of Iraq and the Coalition.

But it won't work. By killing and eating its own, like the titan Kronos, AQI will merely spawn even more rage against itself, leading ultimately to its own destruction -- at Sunni hands. Al-Qaeda has become so obsessed with gathering the blood and flesh to feed their hungry god that they can no longer live even among their coreligionists; they have become anathema:

A suicide bomber driving a truck loaded with TNT and toxic chlorine gas crashed into a police checkpoint in western Ramadi on Friday, killing at least 27 people and wounding dozens, police in the Anbar provincial capital said....

The bombing in Anbar province marked the ninth use of suicide chlorine bombs in the sprawling, mainly desert territory that has been a stronghold of the Sunni insurgency.

Recently, however, many Anbar tribes have switched allegiance, with large numbers of military-age men joining the police force and Iraqi army in a bid to expel al-Qaida in Iraq fighters. Suicide bombings are an al-Qaida trademark.

Strange as it may seem to call a suicide gas attack "good news," it truly is: It means that AQI has abandoned all hope of forming any sort of "national front," even among the Sunnis, and now believes that every man's hand is against them. It means that Iraq will never be an al-Qaeda base, no matter what happens in the future; beyond hatred, they are despised; no one in Iraq will aid and supply them anymore.

It's also heartening to know that the Iraqi police did their duty: The bomb detonated at a security checkpoint, after the police opened fire on the vehicle. Had it gotten through, it could have killed a hundred people or more.

In more good news, Iraqi and Coalition forces continue to grind up the Mahdi Militia; so even if Muqtada Sadr decides to return one day, he will come home to very little in the way of the private army that was his only source of political power in the first place:

South of Baghdad, Iraqi forces backed by American paratroopers swept into a troubled, predominantly Shiite city before dawn, and the U.S. military said as many as six militia fighters had been killed.

Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, a U.S. military spokesman, said eight others were wounded and five detained. There were no reports of civilian casualties in the assault on Diwaniyah, he said.

Residents reported heavy fighting between the U.S. and Iraqi forces and gunmen of the Mahdi Army militia in the city, 80 miles south of Baghdad.

It has also become clear that the Mahdi Militia is fleeing Baghdad, taking its fight to the south, towards Basra. The four British soldiers killed yesterday were blown up by an explosively formed penetrator (EFP), a sophisticated anti-tank weapon which creates a blob of molten metal in a "spear" shape that can penetrate vehicle armor.

EFPs were developed by Western countries as anti-tank weapons in the 1960s or 70s, I believe, and have been used by terrorists at least as far back as 1989 (by the Red Army Faction in West Germany). The models now being found in Iraq come from Iran; in fact, that is exactly what the fifteen kidnapped British sailors and marines were searching for, along with other munitions from Iran, on their routine patrols in the Shatt al-Arab waterway between Iran and Iraq.

In the deep south of the country, the Basra police commander said the type of roadside bomb used in an attack that killed four British soldiers on Thursday had not been seen in the region previously. Maj. Gen. Mohammed al-Moussawi's description of the deadly weapon indicated it was a feared Iranian-designed explosively formed penetrator.

Two more of the bombs were discovered planted along routes heavily traveled by U.S. and British diplomats in Basra. Weeks earlier, the American military had claimed Iran was supplying Shiite militia fighters in Iraq with the powerful weapons, known as EFPs. They hurl a molten, fist-sized copper slug capable of piercing armored vehicles....

The Basra region police commander, al-Moussawi, said two similar bombs had been discovered Friday morning; one was discovered on the road leading to Basra Palace, the compound that houses a British base and the British and U.S. consulates. A second was uncovered in the western Hayaniyah district where Thursday's attack occurred. The area is known as a stronghold of the Mahdi Army, a militia loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

So let us take stock:

  • AQI has become so fearful of their former friends among the Sunni tribes that they have turned virtually their entire homicidal attention to them, rather than the rest of Iraq;
  • Meanwhile, the Shiite death squads are being driven southwards, away from the capital and away, therefore, from power; they are being driven into the south, where they are being ground up like pork sausage;
  • And Iran has planted a number of "gifts" to the British people -- in the form of EFPs now being supplied to the Shiite extremists in Basra province -- along roads frequented by British and American diplomats.

That last point is most worrisome. The EFPs were found in Basra province, which is most easily reached via the very waterway in which the British have now suspended boarding operations since the kidnapping (page 3 of the article):

[The First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Jonathon] Band also confirmed that the Navy had suspended all boarding operations in the northern Gulf while it carried out a “complete review” of the incident which led to them being seized.

Our British allies need rather to step up patrolling and boarding; I hope that the "complete review" leads to beefing up the British naval forces in the Persian Gulf and the Shatt al-Arab waterway, and that future British boarding parties are much more heavily armed -- and more willing to fight, rather than passively allow themselves to be plucked like overripe limes.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 6, 2007, at the time of 2:38 PM

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The following hissed in response by: F. N. Owl

This is the definition of a "death spiral."

Makes sense. A bunch of suicide bombers executing a perfect death spiral.

The above hissed in response by: F. N. Owl [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 6, 2007 7:20 PM

The following hissed in response by: madconductor

As for item 3, it was not unnoticed by a US vessel sharing duties with the HMS Cornwall:
U.S. Navy Lt. Commander Erik Horner, executive officer of the USS Underwood, which shares patrol duty in the Shatt al Arab with the HMS Cornwall, expressed surprise that the British let their sailors and marines be taken without a fight.

“U.S. Navy rules of engagement say we not only have a right to self defense, but also an obligation to self defense,” LtCdr Horner told the British newspaper the Independent. “Our reaction was ‘Why didn’t your guys defend themselves?’”

While the British sailors claim they were duped by the Iranian patrol boat seizure, how is it that the British ship didn't try to stop the Iranian's in their getaway? Yes - they do need to review their MOP's but, like you said, they should be stepping up the searches, not abandoning them.

The above hissed in response by: madconductor [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 6, 2007 7:55 PM

The following hissed in response by: Tomy


Your belief that:

EFPs were developed by Western countries as anti-tank weapons in the 1960s or 70s

is absolutely correct. We called them "shaped charges".

And Fear-not about British timidity.


The above hissed in response by: Tomy [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 6, 2007 11:28 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Tomy links above to two beautiful pictures of Special Boat Units for littoral (brown water) combat and to support SEALs and other SF on their missions. They have a webpage here.

I suspect they would be used to board craft in the PG (close to shore) or the Shatt al-Arab Waterway to search for weapons, terrorists, drugs, or other contraband... especially if the "complete review" by the British admiralty results in them withdrawing from that activity (I hope instead it results in them transferring operational control to their own version of SBUs).

(Note that the search for drugs is not purely policing; virtually all terrorist groups run drugs to support their operations.)


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 7, 2007 1:06 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


It's my understanding that shaped charges are a precursor to explosively formed penetrators (EFPs): With a shaped charge, the metal "cup" at the business end of the charge is literally turned to gas in the explosion; the shaped charge uses the terrific heat of a spear of vaporized metal to punch-melt through armor.

But we (and the Soviets) developed a counter to this: reactive armor. This is armor that reacts to a nearby explosion (or attempt to penetrate the armor) in some way.

In particular, explosive reactive armor (ERA) has a layer of explosives sandwiched between layers of armor; the idea is to use this counter-explosion to disrupt the coherency of the cone of white-hot metal vapor formed by a shaped charge, thus minimizing its damage.

I believe EFPs were a counter-counter to ERA; they do not actually vaporize the metal "cup;" instead, it remains molten but still solid, and ERA has little effect on it.

So EFPs are a later modification of shaped charges, specifically designed to get around ERA.

(And I hope I haven't gotten this wrong; I'm definitely no military expert!)


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 7, 2007 1:28 AM

The following hissed in response by: Tomy


My knowledge on the subject is based on experience from the early 80s, and appears to be outdated. Thanks for information.


The above hissed in response by: Tomy [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 7, 2007 11:13 AM

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